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The Adventures of Monty
West Central Tribune and Fargo Forum
The hardest part of paddling upstream on the rain-swollen Minnesota River
hasn't been the relentless fight with the current.
"It's the people," said Scott Miller, as he and paddling partner
Todd Foster joined in a laugh.
"They've been so nice, so generous, all of the way," said Miller,
a look of sincerity now on his face. Everyone loves to chat with the two
paddlers, who are more than happy to oblige even when it stalls their
On May 1, the two Boy Scouts leaders started a 2,252-mile journey recreating
Eric Sevareid's and Walter Port's epic paddle 75 years ago from Fort Snelling
to York Factory on Hudson Bay.
They are following the Minnesota River to the Red River of the North,
which will lead them to Lake Winnipeg. They will cross its wind-swept
waters north for 300 miles for the chance to take on foaming whitewater
and a maze of waterways in the God's River system to reach the saltwater
of Hudson Bay.
Today, they were scheduled to be near Browns Valley, Minn. - about 100
driving miles south of Fargo-Moorhead. They plan to paddle into Fargo-Moorhead
Nearly another 1,800 miles is still ahead for Foster, 28, of St. Cloud,
and Miller, 29, of St. Paul.
Sevareid's account of his and Port's journey, "Canoeing with the
Cree," has long been a favorite with those who believe Minnesota's
waterways lead to world-class adventure.
It's been Foster's and Miller's inspiration, too. Along with the book,
they carry along a copy of the day-to-day journals that Sevareid and Port
maintained but never published.
Sevareid and Port launched their canoe, the Sans Souchi, on June 17 -
one day after they graduated from high school.
These modern-day adventurers are better prepared. They've got a 45-day
head start. And they have lined up sponsors who have equipped them with
everything from a sleek, 18-foot We-no-nah Champlain cruising canoe -
they named it the Squeerel - to state-of-the art Kokatat rain gear.
Modern equipment doesn't lessen the labor required to make the journey.
Foster recently had been enduring agonizing, electric shots of pain in
both of his wrists with every pull on the paddle. At night, his wrists
would fall asleep and tingle.
When they reached Redwood Falls, Minn., on May 25, he saw a doctor.
"I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing any permanent damage,"
A physician soon assured him that he wasn't. Foster now travels with wrist
braces and medicine, and has yet to feel the pain from the carpal tunnel
syndrome that had dogged him for so many days prior.
They have overcome lots of other challenges, too, none so tough as the
opposing river current that seemed only to grow swifter by the day.
"It's not so much any one day," said Foster when asked about
the physical challenge of their upstream journey. "It's the accumulation."
They start their days by rousing themselves at sunup, boiling an oatmeal
breakfast, breaking camp and packing their canoe by no later than 8:30
Their toughest day was an 11-hour, 17-mile struggle with swift water and
rapids from Renville County Park 2 to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park
near Granite Falls.
In the evenings, they slip into their tent and use a laptop computer and
cell phone to update a Web page (http://hudsonbayexpedition.com) on their
adventure. It's also their chance to call home.
Foster is married and the father of two young children. "The hardest
thing is being away from the family so much," he said.
They have a standing joke about asking each other if they would like to
play a game of cribbage once they reach the tent. They have asked the
question each night but have yet to pull out the cribbage board: Exhaustion
has both men sleeping as darkness descends.
Cherveny is a reporter for the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn.,
a Forum Communications newspaper
Photo caption: Todd Foster, left, and Scott Miller, reach the portage
below the Granite Falls, Minn., dam. The two are canoeing 2,252 miles
from Fort Snelling to York Factory on Hudson Bay. Photos by Tom Cherveny
/ West Central Tribune